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Sterling's mental status may allow family trust to sell Clippers

The recent brouhaha over Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, may be of interest to Denver residents, especially those who follow basketball.

He has been known to walk around the house nude in the presence of others, make racist remarks and spend wildly on an alleged mistress, according to recent court documents. He also has vacillated over whether or not to sell the team and angrily left a physician's office where he was scheduled for a visit to determine his mental competency.

The heart of the matter is whether Sterling is in possession of his faculties and has the mental capacity to retain ownership of the team or whether his formerly estranged wife can be tasked with making the decisions for the family trust that owns the team. A trial begins next month to evaluate Sterling's mental capacity and determine the future of the Clippers. Presently, a former Microsoft executive has offered $2 billion for the team Sterling refuses to sell.

Families have long fought similar battles over estates or questioned their still-living famous relatives' mental states, all when large sums of money are involved. The family members of Amanda Bynes and Britney Spears sought and were given conservatorships over the celebrities after erratic behaviors made headlines, and relatives of Mickey Rooney and Etta James battled tooth and nail over their estates.

One Michigan attorney who wrote a book about famous families' court fights, said, "There are no easy answers. There is no black and white when you are talking about the early or middle stages of dementia."

He stated that he sees some similarities between Donald Sterling's case and the court case of the L'Oreal heiress, who was locked in battle with her daughter over her ability to manage her $20 billion fortune.

Whether it's billions or thousands, relatives will battle over money they perceive a right to or believe is being misspent. One way to prevent this is to see an estate planning attorney while still in full possession of your faculties.

Source: Press-Telegram, "Sterling court battle parallels other famous family feuds" Dakota Smith, Jun. 14, 2014

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